The Bridge Over the River Sot

Once upon a time, many years ago, in fact around fifty years ago, Amroha was a beautiful town of  mango and guava orchards, lush green fields, holy dargahs, ancient temples, caravan sarias, takias, khanqahs, wonderful lakes and enchanting pools. People used to enjoy their morning and evening walks at Lipton Road known as Thandi Sarak (Winter Street). The life was simple – no big frills attached. You would see a lot of  amateur fishermen sitting patiently by the lake side with their fishing rods dangled in silent water, waiting for the catch. Now, all those pastimes are gone forever. As the generations pass their stories and memoirs can no longer be heard. Only a few stories of human interest, bits of wisdom, family histories and humorous happenings are left for future generations to enjoy. However, two lines are common in all of them: Amroha is situated at the banks of River Sot. Amroha is located near the River Sot. Unfortunately that river does no longer exist. There is no water; the river bed is a parched dry land. There stands a lonely bridge that reminds a gruesome old story.
Hundred years  back a train fell into the river as the bridge caved in. All the travelers were killed.

Several images conjure up when someone asks you to remember the childhood. Every one of us has too many wonderful stories and memoirs to narrate if someone touches the emotional cord. According to individual psychology people don’t recall the events that happened to them correctly but they recall them in a way that best describes their subconscious state of mind. As a child we wanted to grow up but now we realize that broken toys and lost pencils were much better than broken heart and lost friends.

This one is a blast from past.

I can still vividly recollect the distant sound of train gracefully passing over the solitary bridge of River Sot in the dark nights. The trundling sound was gentle and often furious. I would get up in my bed and ask my father, “Why the whistle of the engine is so strident? Why the train makes so much sound when it passes over the bridge?” My father was a systematic man who would never get irritated with my most idiotic questions. He would promise me to give the answer in the morning and instruct me to sleep.”

“The train moves against the wind. First, it’s the wind that generates the sound. Second, the sound is due to stress which is created between the wheels of train and iron track. Third, the vibrations of the compartments also create noise. The combined effect is that intensity increases aided with the water below the bridge. Vibrations are absorbed by the earth when the train moves on track on the land. I don’t have to explain the noise of the whistle.” Since my childhood the technical explanation often helped me in winning appreciation of my peers and the admiration of elders – a reason to remember my father in difficult times.

Drina River, Serbia

Drina River in Serbia.

Tower Bridge spans over River Thames in London. It is the only bridge in the world which could be raised from its middle section to permit the large vehicles to pass through it. There is another bridge which always brings back the memories of distant past – “The Bridge On the River Drina.” It was built  by Mehmed Pasa Sokolovic. Construction of this bridge began in 1566 A.D. and it took five years to finish it. It connected Sarajevo pashaluk (the territory of present day Bosnia and Herzegovina) to rest of the Turkish Empire. He was a Serbian child and was taken away from his mother as a part of levy by the Turkish rulers. His mother followed him wailing until they reached the river where they parted and the boy boarded the ferry. This boy, in the years that  followed, showed extraordinary talents. In due course of time he became the Grand Muslim Vazir. He assumed the name – Mohammed Pasha Sokolovik. Yet, his childhood memories had always haunted him and he ordered to build a bridge at the specific spot where he was snatched away from his mother.

Sot River has no such rich past to boast. The bridge over the River Sot was built by Britishers.

Come Shab-e-barat and groups of believers would walk down the river front, early in the morning, to plop into the water an AREEZA from the bridge – a kind of written supplication to Living Imam. There would be lots of fireworks by the river side and prizes were often awarded for the best firework. All is gone now into folk- lore. Now, no one visits Sot for spiritual reasons. The story of ‘tragedy- of-Sot’ had been kept alive by stray Dastango – the traditional itinerant story tellers.

Long before the advent of theaters and films, the minstrels used to practice this medieval art of story- telling. They would engage the public at street corners with stories of adventures, romances, tragedies, djins, fairies and prophesies. A baton in the right hand and a wrist full of iron bangles was the instrument to provide the background music. “Dastan Ameer Hamza” was one the favorite topic.

The narration of the tragedy of River Sot was so impinged upon my memory screen that I have carried it all thorough my life. According to Dastango, the river looked best at dawn. It was the time the train met its preordained  fate. Sit down under the bridge even today and you couldl hear the cries of unfortunate travelers. Listen to the faint whistle of train and you won’t miss the last shriek of Hameeda – the unfortunate groom who had rebelled against society to marry a craft- man who was lower in ranks. The first time she was going her Susral. The couple had put on their wedding dress. As the train slipped down every traveler including the newly wedded couple  disappeared into ocean and with them died the dreams and ambitions of that great caravan.

The story had some unbelievable segments but it was always listened in pin drop silence with awe and agony. Absolute concentration was the name of the game.

I can recollect just one couplet of dastango:

“Sot naddi pa mehshar bapa ho gya,
Bhai se bhai juda ho gya.”

Naim Naqvi

Naim Naqvi

Did his graduation in Science discipline from AMU in 1972-73. He was Secretary of University Ali Society in 1970 and M.M. Hall Literary Society in early 70 's and member of Tayyabji Literary Society. Did his Diploma in Bakery Administration from HTT College Oxford Street London in 1987. Worked with National Herald - Delhi, Blitz - Bombay as Trainee Journalist and in Production Department with 'Naya Sansar Pictures' of Khwaja Ahmed Abbas at Bombay in early 70's. Traveled for study and training purposes to Germany, U.K., Switzerland, France, Dubai, Oman, AbuDhabi, Bahrain and Philepines.

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Babur must have been turning in his grave

Babur

Babur

Babur was born on February 14, 1483, in the town Andejan situated in the Farghana Valley. He was sixth in the line of Amir Taimur’s descendent, while his mother belonged to the family of the Mongol, Changez Khan.

DR N S Rajaram is a noted writer, who has published several books on topics related to ancient Indian history and Indian archeology. He has always felt the presence of Eurocentric biased undercurrents in mainstream Indology and the way history is taken in Independent India. According to him, “Its creators were driven mainly by European colonial and Christian missionary interests.”

Further reference of the readers: ‘The Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor’. Translated, edited and annotated by Wheeler M Thacktson, 1996. Oxford University Press: New York and London; 472 pages.

Even Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru has said that the greatness of Babur lay not in capturing India but in capturing the hearts of Indians.

Those who remember those stormy euphoric days before the destruction of Babri Masjid, they could still vividly recollect the funny provocative slogan- “Tel laga ke Dabur ka, nam mita do Babur Ka”. I don’t remember if the company that manufactures this oil raised any objection.

That is the tragedy of India today that people, who don’t have time to read history and have the guts to connect Dabur with Babur judge the larger-than-life characters like Babur for us. Instead of enjoying his many adventures and achievements of his short (47 years only) life, people are misled into one belief that he was a mere iconoclast. In fact, amongst the rulers of Central Asia and India, Babur was one of the most colourful personalities.

Western historians and intellectuals, who usually have a stiff eyebrow over the snobbish corridors of history have spoken highly of him. He was an expert in the art of warfare and conquest and he was a noted literary genius, a writer of Uzbeki prose. He was ardent lover and admirer of poetry and fine arts. He wrote several books on prosody, music and the art of war. He is the inventor of a calligraphic writing even today known as Khat-i-Babri.

Babur was born on February 14, 1483, in the town Andejan situated in the Farghana Valley. He was sixth in the line of Amir Taimur’s descendent, while his mother belonged to the family of the Mongol, Changez Khan. Babur’s mother was the pillar of Babur’s character and education. She was well versed with the literature of Turkish, Arabic and Persian and she could play lullaby for the future emperor form the folk songs. Babur was only 11 years old when his father died and he was declared his successor and ruler of the Farghana Valley. As a child he faced several challengers to the throne but successfully surmounted all of them. Babar’s education ended with his initial years of life as he found no second chance at it. Interestingly, he was least impressed with his childhood teachers.

From the slew of resources I can sum up the history as follows:

Mir Baqi, a nobleman of Babur’s court built the mosque at Ayodhya in 1528. It was the custom of the time that most of the nobles used to implement things in the name of their king. The only source for these credits are the inscriptions on the mosque. In Babur’s autobiography there is no mention of this. In Babur’s memoirs he had been forthright where he mentions that he ordered the mutilation of the nude idols in Urwah Valley near Gwalior on the grounds of obscenity. Babur would not have failed to mention or hide the demolition of a temple had it been done on the grounds of religious conviction. There are doubts about his visit to Ayodhya itself.

There are no contemporary accounts about this episode and one has to draw inferences from the fact that there is no mention of the demolition of any temple in any of the sources at that time. A medieval Persian chronicle, Ain-i-Akbari, written in the 17th century by Abul Fazl refers to Ayodhya as ‘one of the holiest of places of antiquity’. It doesn’t mention any demolition and replacement of a temple by a mosque. Even Tulsidas, one of the greatest Ram bhakts of all time could not have missed this. He lived just a quarter of a century after Babur and it is totally unlike him not to have mentioned this had it taken place just 25 to 50 years before his time.

Babur came to India and adopted India as his country like Aryans, who had also came before him from Central Asia. Babur has defeated Lodhis who were Muslims.

Naim Naqvi

Naim Naqvi

Did his graduation in Science discipline from AMU in 1972-73. He was Secretary of University Ali Society in 1970 and M.M. Hall Literary Society in early 70 's and member of Tayyabji Literary Society. Did his Diploma in Bakery Administration from HTT College Oxford Street London in 1987. Worked with National Herald - Delhi, Blitz - Bombay as Trainee Journalist and in Production Department with 'Naya Sansar Pictures' of Khwaja Ahmed Abbas at Bombay in early 70's. Traveled for study and training purposes to Germany, U.K., Switzerland, France, Dubai, Oman, AbuDhabi, Bahrain and Philepines.

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The death of a ‘Love Story’

The Cecil B. DeMille of Indian Cinema Kamal Amrohi along with Khayyam Saheb were going over and over again through the 200 stanzas submitted by the lyricist for now the famous lyric “Aarzoo kya hai ? Justuju kya hai ?” which could be unsuccessfully translated – “What does the desire mean ? What does the curiosity stand for ?” for their magnum opus “Razia Sultan”. Razia didn’t relish the idea of being a princess. She was confused. She wanted to be a commoner. She didn’t know exactly what she wanted from life? The poet had tried to express her feelings. Every critic worth his salt had hailed the film as ‘landmark’ and predicted that it would beat the records of “Mougl-e- Azam” beofre its release. The film miserably flopped. The language was too Persian zed; Hemma Malini together with Dharmendra failed to impress the movie goers with their acting talents and delivery of dialogues. The giants like Sohrab Modi were also wasted. The only saving grace was the songs of the film.

I’m not going through the sorry tale of “Razia Sultan.” I’m discussing here about the death of the normal ‘Love Story’ in Indian cinema. Why ‘Veer’ and ’Kite’ were not accepted the way it was expected ? Why the films that have happy endings get luke-warm receptions or fail at box office? No one talks about them when they come out the cinema halls. These are pot-boilers at best and never acquire the status of classics.

Either as a film-goers we are shorn off the faculty of appreciation or the presnt style heroic romance is not cut-out in this fast galloping life based on hard realities.

Love is sublime. Love means never having to say we’re sorry ! It has a unique place in our lives. Love stories assuage our evergreen aches for romance. We had nothing in common with the Prince Saleem of Moghl-e-Azam but he steals our sympathy when Anarkali was shown to be placed behind the bricks. Everyone finds a Saleem and a Devdas in himself hidden somewhere in the folds of his busy life. No heroin has garnered so much sympathy of masses than Madhubala when she was fettered into chains and pushed onto the floor of the prison. Love, sufferings and sacrifice are magnificent virtues which defy every conceivable adversity including death. Granted that naked sentiments are vulgar and garish but if expressed simply and sincerely, they are more effective and pass a message. Drugs, naked dances, stormy sex and free love dilute the sanctity and chastity of every delicate imagination. The film with cluttering of these attractions is left with little class and less authority. We have reached a point where a covered female body looks more attractive and graceful than a nymphet showing every possible asset.

For better or worse, most classic Indian Romances pivot round the tales of Leila-Majnoon, Heer-Ranjha, Soni-Mahiwal, Baaz Bahadur-Rani Rupmati and last but not the least Meera-Shyam. Bollywood had reminted and wringed the last drop of juice from these stories. Star crossed lovers born with different of antecedents and ending at the tragic crest leave a viewer with something to brood upon. The smiling and singing family picture at The End impress no one.

My question is – Is human nature more prone to savour the cruel pleasure of an unhappy ending ?

Naim Naqvi

Naim Naqvi

Did his graduation in Science discipline from AMU in 1972-73. He was Secretary of University Ali Society in 1970 and M.M. Hall Literary Society in early 70 's and member of Tayyabji Literary Society. Did his Diploma in Bakery Administration from HTT College Oxford Street London in 1987. Worked with National Herald - Delhi, Blitz - Bombay as Trainee Journalist and in Production Department with 'Naya Sansar Pictures' of Khwaja Ahmed Abbas at Bombay in early 70's. Traveled for study and training purposes to Germany, U.K., Switzerland, France, Dubai, Oman, AbuDhabi, Bahrain and Philepines.

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Mumbai or Bombay ?

“Zara hut ke, zara bach ke, yeh hai Bombay meri jan.” The melody is old but still ringing fresh like the morning breeze for a lot of Indians who were born and brought up or landed in Bombay before 1993. They have an emotional nostalgic attachment to this very name – Bombay. Till 1993 no other freedom fighter from Maharashtra did ever try it to fiddle with this name. It was when Shiva Sena – BJP combine came to power that they snapped out of slumber and declared that this historical mini-archipelago has everything to do with Mumba Devi and Bombay should be called Bombay.

The pertinent question is – When Bombay is to be called Mumbai why Bala Saheb’s clan have not given up the anglicized name THACKERAY which reminds us the famous English writer William Thackeray of The Vanity Fair? Why did they not changed to Thakre that is pure Marathi ? But it is a trivial matter. Hypocrisy is not any individuals birth right.

Let’s us have a look at the history of Bombay. Tushar Gandhi, this name need no introduction, gives the history or Bombay as follows:
“According to ancient history, a grouping of seven islands comprising Colaba, Mazagaon, Old Woman’s Island, Wadala, Mahim, Parel, and Matunga-Sion formed a part of the kingdom of Ashoka the Great of Magadh, ironically in North India.

The Bhaiyas and Biharis whom the Thackerays accuse of being outsiders in Mumbai, come from the region, which was a part of Ashoka the Great’s empire. We judge everything according to history and the history of Mumbai proves that its earliest known ownership was with a North Indian.

The seven islands of Mumbai passed through many hands, the sultans of Gujarat, the Portuguese and the British. Every ruler left behind proof of residence in Mumbai. The Mauryans left behind the Kanheri, Mahakali and the caves of Gharapuri more popularly called Elephanta. The sultans of Gujarat built the Dargahs at Mahim and Haji Ali, the Portuguese built the two Portuguese churches, one at Prabhadevi and the other St Andrews at Bandra. They built forts at Sion, Mahim, Bandra and Bassien.

The Portuguese named the group of seven Islands ‘Bom Baia’, Good Bay.The British built a city out of the group of seven islands and called her Bombay.”
And now the Mumbai Connection:
“The original settlers of the seven islands, the Koli fishermen, worshiped Mumbaidevi, her temple still stands at Babulnath near Chowpatty. The Kolis called the island Mumbai, ‘Mumba, Mother Goddess’.

“In 1662, King Charles II of England married the Portugese Princess Catherine of Braganza, and received the seven islands of Bom Baia as part of his dowry. Six years later, the British Crown leased the seven islands to the English East India Company for a sum of 10 pounds in gold per annum.

It was under the English East India Company that the future megapolis began to take shape, after the first war for independence Bombay once again became a colony of the British Empire. History has forgotten this but the first Parsi settler came to Bombay in 1640, he was Dorabji Nanabhoy Patel.

In 1689-90, a severe plague epidemic broke out in Bombay and most of the European settlers succumbed to it. The Siddi of Janjira attacked in full force. Rustomji Dorabji Patel, a trader and the son of the city’s first Parsi settler, successfully defeated the Siddi with the help of the Kolis and saved Bombay.

Gerald Aungier, Governor of Bombay built the Bombay Castle, an area that is even today referred to as Fort. He also constituted the Courts of law. He brought Gujarati traders, Parsi shipbuilders, Muslim and Hindu manufacturers from the mainland and settled them in Bombay.

It was during a period of four decades that the city of Bombay took shape. Reclamation was done plug the breach at Worli and Mahalakshmi, Hornby Vellard was built in 1784. The Sion Causeway connecting Bombay to Salsette was built in 1803. Colaba Causeway connecting Colaba island to Bombay was built in 1838. A causeway connecting Mahim and Bandra was built in 1845. Lady Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, the wife of the First Baronet Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy donated Rs 1, 57,000 to meet construction costs of the cau seway. She donated Rs 1,00,000 at first. When the project cost escalated and money ran out half way through she donated Rs 57,000 again to ensure that the vital causeway was completed. Lady Jamsetjee stipulated that no toll would ever be charged for those using the causeway. Today Mumbaikars have to pay Rs 75 to use the Bandra-Worli Sea link, connecting almost the same two islands. Sir J J Hospital was also built by Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy.
The shipbuilding Wadia family of Surat was brought to Bombay by the British. Jamshedji Wadia founded the Bombay Port Trust and built the Princess Dock in 1885 and the Victoria Dock and the Mereweather Dry Docks in 1891. Alexandra Dock was built in 1914. A Gujarati civil engineer supervised the building of the Gateway of India. The Tatas made Bombay their headquarters and gave it the iconic Taj Mahal Hotel and India’s first civilian airlines, Air India.

The Godrejs gave India its first vegetarian soap. Cowasji Nanabhai Daver established Bombay’s first cotton mill, ‘The Bombay Spinning Mills’ in 1854. By 1915, there were 83 textile mills in Bombay largely owned by Indians. This brought about a financial boom in Bombay.
Although the mills were owned by Gujaratis, Kutchis, Parsis and Marwaris, the work force was migrant Mahrashtrians from rural Maharashtra.

Premchand Roychand, a prosperous Gujarati broker founded the Bombay Stock Ex change. Premchand Roychand donated Rs 2,00,000 to build the Rajabai Tower in 1878. Muslim, Sindhi and Punjabi migrants have also contributed handsomely to Mumbai. Mumbai is built on the blood and sweat of all Indians. Apart from its original inhabitants, the Kolis, everyone else in Mumbai, including Thackeray’s ‘Marathi Manoos’, are immigrants.”

I have quoted here a great scholar, a man of honesty and integrity whose credentials are beyond question. He is the founder president of Mahatma Gandhi Foundation. He is also Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson.
These are the facts that look straight into the eyes of those who are eventually lording over the cosmopolitan Bombay. How many times these protagonists who claim themselves the guardians of Kolis visited the Koliwarahs and what did they do to uplift the plight of these original inhabitants of Bombay ?

Naim Naqvi

Naim Naqvi

Did his graduation in Science discipline from AMU in 1972-73. He was Secretary of University Ali Society in 1970 and M.M. Hall Literary Society in early 70 's and member of Tayyabji Literary Society. Did his Diploma in Bakery Administration from HTT College Oxford Street London in 1987. Worked with National Herald - Delhi, Blitz - Bombay as Trainee Journalist and in Production Department with 'Naya Sansar Pictures' of Khwaja Ahmed Abbas at Bombay in early 70's. Traveled for study and training purposes to Germany, U.K., Switzerland, France, Dubai, Oman, AbuDhabi, Bahrain and Philepines.

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The New Mughals set up office at Red Fort

Red_Fort

Red_Fort

The Director General (DG) of the ASI has decided to take the seat once forcefully vacated by the unfortunate Last Grand Moughal, Bhahdur Shah Zafar. The DG is the new Sarakri Mughal, a new habitu, who has turned Red Fort into a habitat.

TILL DATE we have seen fake god-men, squatters and land grabbers occupying the prime lands in cities and towns. We have also seen the public occupying government lands. However, populating the historical monuments by ASI officials in the name of better services and protection of an old edifice is a new phenomenon, a new depth to which our bureaucracy could fall. It is like the old adage – Rakshak bane Bhakshak.

Now the Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India has decided to take the seat once forcefully vacated by the unfortunate Last Grand Mughal, Bhahdur Shah Zafar. The DG is the new Sarakri Mughal, a new habitué, who has turned Red Fort into a habitat.

Inside the colonial buildings at the 17th Century World Heritage Site, the ASI DG Gautam Sengupta and senior officials have developed two-bedroom sets. The Mughal building of Naubat Khana has been turned into an office. These quarters have undergone a makeover. Fancy tile-work, granite flooring, wooden interiors and air-conditioners are few of the facilities at their disposal at the new residents now.

These are the officials who are supposed to implement the policy of renovation and protection of historic sites.

If the memory of the public is not too short, let them recall the recent amendment in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Act 2010. The amendment states: “No permission including carrying out any public work or project essential to the public or other constructions, shall be granted in any prohibited area on or after the date on which the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Bill 2010 receives the assent of the President.”

In 2003, the Army was also asked to vacate the Red Fort. There are guest houses located inside the historical building, but they belonged to the British period. It is interesting to note that all annexes for the concerned officers of Archeology, around the world, are temporary in nature.

According to Gurmeet Rai, conservationist and Director, Cultural Resource Conservation Initiative, “The spirit of the monument and its historic value should never be compromised when changes are made to it. Monuments should be put to adaptive reuse, officials should not abuse it.” The Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan for the Red Fort passed by the UNESCO says while the colonial structures can be used by officials, the Mughal buildings should be left untouched.

In violations of established precedents and an insult to the sacred memories and public interests, Naubat Khana, which houses the site manager’s office, has been redone with latest gadgets and new lavatories. Will these new incursions and innovation not damage the structure? They have put up a huge transformer next to the Hammam. Will it not pose a huge threat to the building in case of any malfunction?

Naim Naqvi

Naim Naqvi

Did his graduation in Science discipline from AMU in 1972-73. He was Secretary of University Ali Society in 1970 and M.M. Hall Literary Society in early 70 's and member of Tayyabji Literary Society. Did his Diploma in Bakery Administration from HTT College Oxford Street London in 1987. Worked with National Herald - Delhi, Blitz - Bombay as Trainee Journalist and in Production Department with 'Naya Sansar Pictures' of Khwaja Ahmed Abbas at Bombay in early 70's. Traveled for study and training purposes to Germany, U.K., Switzerland, France, Dubai, Oman, AbuDhabi, Bahrain and Philepines.

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A bridge near the Kashmiri Gate

Kashmiri Gate

Kashmiri Gate

It happened at Koria Pul – one of the oldest bridge connecting Kashmiri Gate and Chandni Chowk; the two glittering chapters of Moughal history, the two sides of a railway divide. Night had suddenly grown colder and I was feeling alone in this heartless city. I was an unemployed bachelor, adrift, caught in the currents of mysteries of life. I had to walk down from Panja Shareef to Ballimaran as last pennies of my pockets stopped ringing. Someone had promised me to meet and a job could have been a possible outcome of that pregnant encounter. Nothing materialized and the next reality was the procurement of the evening meals that has to materialize from somewhere if I had to survive.

From that side of Kasmhiri Gate every step at the access of the bridge was heavier than the previous one. In this frightening loneliness I was trying to lose my thoughts in howling whistles of passing trains. I still had my muffler and darned over- all to protecte me from cold winds. As most of the doors which had any possibility of any opening or hope for the job had already been knocked and banged. Nothing succeeds like and success and nothing flops like a failed life. “I was the unluckiest and unwanted creature and there seemed to be no great reason to vouchsafe this world with my existence. This problems-infested world could have done better without me.” Those were the thoughts that haunted me as I minced my steps and looked up at the cloudless sky seeking some answers from one who was letting me cross that foggy night through this Koria Pul, hungry and helpless. Every dark night has a dawn and darker the clouds brighter the silver-lining – Optimism is the last refuge of a hapless soul.

There were scant any passenger across the bridge and I was the Knight of the Bridge at the moment. Then, from nowhere a tattered lady approached in a circuitous move and pulled the corner of my dress.
“Babu Ji, I’m hungry. Give me some money to eat. I shall pray for you and my baby will pray for you.” Irony of fate. A beggar was checking a destitute. I tried to look the other way. I didn’t know who wanted to laugh at my miseries at this juncture. Some times the sense of humor sparks at worst of the moments.
“I have a hundred rupee note. Do you have the change ?” I thought my howler would make her disappear.

“No, I don’t have. Please babu help me.” She replied and persisted.
“Why do you beg and why can’t you find some work for you instead of roaming the streets in this cold winter ?” I tried to reason with her without realizing that there was a mirror put in front of my face by this bedraggled unkempt mother.
“The kid is too small. If I go for work who would take care of her ?”
That was her problem but a logical man can’t accept begging as a worth while occupation to survive upon this planet which was so full of bubbling opportunities.

The child lay quiet, without moan as the mother began to unfold her thin torn shawl by gentle degree, looking down with anxious solitude at that concealed object – a miniature of suffering humanity.
The baby stretched her punny hand and feebly caressed he protectress.
Looking at me with imploring pity she again accosted , this time with more assurance and boldness.
“De na babu Allah tera bhala karega.”(Give babu, God will help you.)
“Sure, but I don’t know when Allah will help me.” I don’t remember if I said or not but she listened.

I saw her walking ahead of me with a kind of poise which if difficult to define in words. After a few steps, she stopped and looked back, waited for me.
“Down the bridge you can get the change. I come with you. Give me something babu I have to feed the baby.” I was annoyed and petrified at the script of the scene written for this strange situation by no one but who knows everything.

Under the light of lamp post I could see the exposed face of the baby. It was infinitely more touching than ever I saw – a beauty in the pathos of sleep.
Now I could see the shivering woman with her exposed body from the chinks of torn dress. We had already reached thedescending side abutting Chandni Chowk. For the whole world it was Chandni Chowk (The Brightened Square) but probably for three human beings, at the moment, it was the darkest side of a brightest square.

I remove my muffler with a flick and throw it at her.
“Bibi, I was lying. I have had nothing – no hundred rupee note, not even one rupee note. Take my muffler and protect yourself from the blistering cold weather and let me go.”

Naim Naqvi

Naim Naqvi

Did his graduation in Science discipline from AMU in 1972-73. He was Secretary of University Ali Society in 1970 and M.M. Hall Literary Society in early 70 's and member of Tayyabji Literary Society. Did his Diploma in Bakery Administration from HTT College Oxford Street London in 1987. Worked with National Herald - Delhi, Blitz - Bombay as Trainee Journalist and in Production Department with 'Naya Sansar Pictures' of Khwaja Ahmed Abbas at Bombay in early 70's. Traveled for study and training purposes to Germany, U.K., Switzerland, France, Dubai, Oman, AbuDhabi, Bahrain and Philepines.

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‘Begum Akhtar’-the gem with eternal glow

Begam-Akhtar

Begum Akhtar was born on October 7, 1914 in the small town of Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh and her maiden name was Akhtari Begum. She was born in a high class family that was not musically inclined but her uncle detected the latent talent in her.

“Ghazal usne cheri, hamen saaz dena, Zara umre- rafta ko awaz dena.” (She has spelt the magic of ghazal, give me the musical instrument; Let us recall the time that has gone by.)

A ghazal is a poetic expression of both the pain of loss or separation between two lovers and the beauty of love in spite of their pain.

Begum Akhtar was one the most  celebrated ghazal singer of India and her 35th death anniversary is being observed this week with musical soirees. Ghazal-singing of today has its roots in ‘Thumri’ that was given shape by Wajid Ali Shah, the last Nawab of Awadh who was exiled by the British during the 1857.

Begum Akhtar was born on October 7, 1914 in the small town of Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh in northern India and her maiden name was Akhtari Begum. She was born in a high class family that was not musically inclined but her uncle detected a latent talent in her.

On his insistence, she was sent to train under Ustad Imdad Khan, the great sarangi exponent. Later she was trained under Ata Mohammed Khan.  After the initial training she traveled to Calcutta with her mother and started learning music from classical stalwarts like Mohammad Khan, Abdul Waheed Khan and finally she became the disciple of Ustad Jhande Khan Saheb.

At the tender age of fifteen she gave her first performance and took the music world by storm. The famous poetess Sarojini Naidu appreciated her singing during a concert which was organized in the aid of victims of Bihar earthquake. This encouraged her to continue singing ghazals with more enthusiasm.

She did also cut her first album for the Megaphone Record Company and a number of gramophone records were released carrying her ghazals, dadras, thumris, etc. At the dawn of talkie era in India, Begum Akhtar acted in a few Hindi movies in thirties.

East India Film Company of Calcutta approached her to act in KING FOR A DAY (alias Ek Din Ka Badshah) and NAL DAMAYANTI in the year 1933. Like others of that era, she sang her songs herself in all her films. She continued acting in the following years. The movies she acted in are: Ameena (1934), Mumtaz Begum (1934), Jawaani Ka Nasha (1935), Naseeb Ka Chakkar (1935).

Begum Akhtar is  synonymous with ghazal gaayaki and is immortalized  for her own definitive style of singing-a style that few have been able to match. She is rightly known as Mallika-e-Ghazal.

From an aspiring ghazal singer she, with the passage of time, acquired remarkable maturity and an inimitable richness developed in her melodies. She has nearly four hundred songs to her credit. She was a regular performer on All India Radio. One trait that makes her different is that she used to compose her own ghazals. In 1945 she married a wealthy barrister form Lucknow and from Akhtaribai Faizabadi she became Begum Akhtar.

Her last concert was held in Ahmedabad and as she was not feeling well during the day she was rushed to rushed to the hospital soon after the concert and passed away on 30th of October, 1974 leaving a big void in ghazal lovers’ hearts.

She was posthumously awarded the Padmabhushan. Just eight days before her death, she recorded Kaifi Azmi’s ghazal: “sunaa karo merii jaan un se un ke afsaane , sab ajanabii hain yahaan, kaun kis ko pahachaane.”

Naim Naqvi

Naim Naqvi

Did his graduation in Science discipline from AMU in 1972-73. He was Secretary of University Ali Society in 1970 and M.M. Hall Literary Society in early 70 's and member of Tayyabji Literary Society. Did his Diploma in Bakery Administration from HTT College Oxford Street London in 1987. Worked with National Herald - Delhi, Blitz - Bombay as Trainee Journalist and in Production Department with 'Naya Sansar Pictures' of Khwaja Ahmed Abbas at Bombay in early 70's. Traveled for study and training purposes to Germany, U.K., Switzerland, France, Dubai, Oman, AbuDhabi, Bahrain and Philepines.

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Sir Syed Ahmed Khan; a great visionary

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan

He had witnessed with his own eyes the devastation, death and destruction – the untrammeled fire of vengeance and hate; and he had seen his own community being trampled underfoot by the White rulers.

SIR SYED Ahmed Khan was a legend in his life time; a rebel with a cause; a social reformer with a transparent and clear vision; a leader who changed the destiny of his community. He was born in Delhi on 17 October 1817. He was brought up in the finest of ’Elite Indian Muslim Traditions’.

He had witnessed with his own eyes the devastation, death and destruction – the untrammeled fire of vengeance and hate; and he had seen his own community being trampled underfoot by the White rulers. He had realized that animosity between British and Muslims, in the aftermath of the Indian Mutiny 1857, had not only marginalized the Indian Muslims but pushed them into an unenviable abyss of poverty, ignorance and shame. They had been relegated to the backwardness of many many centuries. He also felt that the socio-economic future of Indian Muslims had been put into jeopardy by their aversion to modern science and technology.

In that dusky gloom that was soured by the defeat of the last Moughal Emperor Bhahdur Shah Zafar he rose with a hope; trudged on the graveled road with a roadmap that is still a floating light-house in the sea of darkness.
Illusions, willfulness, cruelty, pride and illiteracy were the curious elements that comprised the Muslim society and feudalism persisted despite the horrific apocalypse it brought to ordinary Muslims. He tried to solve this jigsaw puzzle with all the resources or the scarcity of resources at his disposal. He wrote stinging articles and books rebuking the dogmas and practices which were prevalent in Muslim society. He was blunt, honest and straight and never demonstrated the indulgent savity of a fashionable healer. He was an assured and competent surgeon with an ability to overcome the fate of his community with his scissors of reforms.

He advised them to concentrate on education; he was against the involvement of his community into politics. He was great advocate of Hindu-Muslim unity and it is worth remembering that the first graduate of Aligarh was a Hindu.

Sir Syed challenged the orthodox Muslim clergy of his time and propagated a liberal and rational ideology based on modern concepts in the light of Holy Quran and Hadees (the traditions of Prophet Mohd P.B.U.H). His views were rejected by Muslim clergy and he was condemned as KAFIR by them. As he was personally affected by the Indian Mutiny he wrote the famous historical book – ‘Asbab-e-Baghawate- Hind’ (The Causes of Indian Mutiny) in which he audaciously criticized the British rulers and their policies. He did boldly and explicitly blamed the British for the causes of revolt.

During a visit to England (1869-70) he prepared plans for a great educational institution -”a Muslim Cambridge.” On his return he set up a committee for this purpose and also started an influential journal, Tahdhib al-Akhlaq “Social Reform”, for the uplift and reform of the Muslims. He founded the Mohammedan Anglo Oriental College at Aligarh, U.P. in 1875 which later bloomed as the A.M.U.

Sir Syed was an individual with exceptional qualities of leadership and he was a modern priest, a great tribune of Muslim society who, with a mighty grasp, shook it free from the shackles of sloth; ignorance and vermin that fed upon it.

His career as an author (in Urdu) started at the age of 23 with religious tracts. In 1847 he brought out a noteworthy book, “Assar Assanadid“- Monuments Seen Through His Eyes, on the antiquities of Delhi.
This great statesman, reformer and visionary man died on 27 March, 1898, in Aligarh.

‘Hazaron Saal Nargis apni be-noori pa roti hai,
Bari mushkil se hota hai chaman men deedawar paida.’

Naim Naqvi

Naim Naqvi

Did his graduation in Science discipline from AMU in 1972-73. He was Secretary of University Ali Society in 1970 and M.M. Hall Literary Society in early 70 's and member of Tayyabji Literary Society. Did his Diploma in Bakery Administration from HTT College Oxford Street London in 1987. Worked with National Herald - Delhi, Blitz - Bombay as Trainee Journalist and in Production Department with 'Naya Sansar Pictures' of Khwaja Ahmed Abbas at Bombay in early 70's. Traveled for study and training purposes to Germany, U.K., Switzerland, France, Dubai, Oman, AbuDhabi, Bahrain and Philepines.

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Fiza: A strong, wise woman

We all make decisions throughout our life – some are automatic, some are well-thought-out and some are outright blunders. The last ones are based on inchoate thinking and emotions that could be the result of over-stress.

WE ALL make decisions throughout our life – some are automatic, some are well-thought-out and some are outright blunders. The last ones are based on inchoate thinking and emotions that could be the result of over-stress. One wrong decision can change the course of life forever. As one Urdu poet said:

Bus ek qadam utha tha ghalat rah-e-shouq men.
Manzil tamam umr mujhe dhoondti rahee.

Marriage is the biggest turning point in a person’s life. Partners are supposed to treat each other with respect and trust. They must support one another and agree on goals together. They must show equal commitment to the relationship and nurture it to the best of their abilities. Consider the story of Anuradha Bali who fell into the trap set by a wily married politician; the enchantress in her was trapped in an illusion, the lawyer floundered, wisdom failed and common sense became the first casualty. She failed to learn anything from her previous failed marriage. She allowed herself to be exploited and destroyed by the greedy impostor – the product of a clan of political-seasoned opportunists.

Anyone else would have easily turned into a dismal, broken spirit and a pulverised wreck after all she had undergone. She had made a formidable mistake. However in the aftermath of the traumatic relationship she learned to accept the situation and she attempted to correct the course as best as she could. She made every effort to salvage the flotsam of her floundered life and in the process lost almost everything.

What remained with her was her integrity of character and her faith. It is difficult for me to believe that it was her love and respect for Islam that compelled her to become a Muslim. From Sunil Dutt-Nargis to Dharmedra-Hema there is a never ending stream of couples who used the tenets of Islam for their dubious and ulterior motives and of course the case of Chandra Mohan-Anuradha Bali is the most recent.

However, it is to her credit that once she entered to the fold of Islam, she remained loyal and remained faithful to the new faith she had acquired. In an interview with Divya, A she said, “After converting to Islam and assuming my present name, I have adopted its tenets from the core of my heart and would remain Fiza till death.”

Religion is a very personal matter. It is the equation between the individual and God. Whatever faith we follow, most of us are religious people and it is our duty not to make a mockery of our faith. Chandra Mohan brought disgrace to both Hinduism and Islam. Fiza made some interesting comments under duress but it is worth reflecting on her inherited values: “He (the CM) has gone insane. He seems to be changing his religion as often as he changes his wives. All of the members of his family need psychiatric counselling so that they do not play with women’s lives.”

Chandra Mohan had finally gone back to his original Bishnoi fold. We don’t know what he would do if he were to encounter the next beautiful damsel to walk his way. Meanwhile, Fiza, out of the furnace of her life’s tribulations, is trying hard to reassemble the remaining shattered pieces of her life. She appears to be wise, serene, cool and still vibrant. She had not surrendered or accepted defeat.

Life goes on. She ended her interview with the following words:
“It’s not been a normal life and I have now left it to God to take care of things. I don’t even wish to find the logic of things in what He does to me. I trust Him and the logic of things will unfold in future if I can’t understand it now.” We all make mistakes – some repairable, some fatal. Let us not laugh at her folly. She is a wise and strong woman who fell prey to a man’s evil designs. She remains an intelligent and sharp lawyer – a beautiful personality indeed. She has the dignity to accept her mistakes. She can still make amends and go the glorious path of life. We wish you all the best in life Fiza.

Naim Naqvi

Naim Naqvi

Did his graduation in Science discipline from AMU in 1972-73. He was Secretary of University Ali Society in 1970 and M.M. Hall Literary Society in early 70 's and member of Tayyabji Literary Society. Did his Diploma in Bakery Administration from HTT College Oxford Street London in 1987. Worked with National Herald - Delhi, Blitz - Bombay as Trainee Journalist and in Production Department with 'Naya Sansar Pictures' of Khwaja Ahmed Abbas at Bombay in early 70's. Traveled for study and training purposes to Germany, U.K., Switzerland, France, Dubai, Oman, AbuDhabi, Bahrain and Philepines.

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A view from Eiffel tower

Eiffel tower

Eiffel tower

Eiffel Tower was designed and built in 1889. If you’re in Paris you can’t miss it – even if you want to. The top of the tower is visible from all over the metropolis. The tower symbolises French Revolution and France’s struggle against poverty…

JUST THINK of towers and there are only two names that shot up the memory screen – Qutub Tower (Minar) and Eiffel Tower. The shadow of former encompasses centuries of history of India; the rise and falls of several dynasties, the caravans of Sufis and warriors and the hopes and realities of emerging India. Eiffel Tower is relatively infant – a sentinel of modern France. It is made up of iron and, at one time, was the most despised structure – an anathema for contemporary artists and aesthetics, who felt it odd and not in harmony with the architecture of Paris.

It was designed and built in 1889, by the famous engineer Gustavo Eiffel, who was known for his mastery over ‘bridge building’. It was built to commemorate for World Exhibition to celebrate the French Revolution. It took two years to build this magnificent structure and only one worker died during the entire activity. Think of the safety standards and equipment of 19th century and recall the Metro mishaps that we are getting used to in Delhi.

If you’re in Paris you can’t miss it – even if you want to. The top of the tower is visible from all over the metropolis. It spears up 300 meters in the sky and if you want to climb through stairs, there are only 1665 steps to test your guts. I felt the use of angular elevator would be more helpful to enhance my spirits before I reach the top of the tower than challenging myself and end up as a cropper.

The guide there was telling a little known fact about the tower that, apart from numerous well known suicides, it was used by the scientist Wulf who discovered the Cosmic Rays from this tower.
I used plenty of time to stroll at the bank of river Seine and the flowers and green grass that make the beautiful surrounding of Eiffel unforgettable.

Paris is name that conjures up the images of riches, aristocracy, fashion, beauty, perfumes, cosmetics, art and style. It reminds of poverty also – a very bad name indeed. When I reached the tower the dollops of soft cotton were floating around high up in the light blue sky and a cool wind was blowing. It was so reassuring and pleasing to eyes, which were feasting upon the dancing auburn tresses that crowned the beautiful faces.

The view of Paris from these dazzling heights was really spectacular and the river Seine was flowing like a shimmering silvery serpentine in the body of city. There were guides and there were telescopes and binoculars to unfurl before the eyes the history of city that witnessed the best and the worst of life. One guide was talking about French Revolution, Napoleon, King Louis and his queen. The other guide was telling about the Notre Dam, Arch of Triumph and Champs Elysees.

One guide was enjoying the narration of the day when the poor of Paris stormed the Bastille Prison – when the crowd was gathered outside in the mid morning and by the afternoon the ’drawbridge’ of the inner courtyard was cut. It was the history of poverty and rebellion against poverty. It was the history of fight between haves and have-nots. I was so engrossed in that I forgot I was in Paris. No, I was near the seventh Bus Stop of Malad West – at Malwani. The knots of eunuchs, with their drums and wrenklets were getting down from the bus after their days toil; pick-pockets were comparing their earnings of the day and regular labourers were coming to rest to their huts.

I was not on Eiffel Tower but amongst my own people where poverty and hunger and disease come as natural and they gracefully accept. For them rising index of stock exchange or economic depression are meaningless. They are far above the Eiffel Tower. I don’t remember when I moved into the descending elevator. For the moment I was back in the lap of my placid, staid and colourful Bombay and the show of fountains at Bellagio failed to arrest me. The evening was soured for the moment.

Naim Naqvi

Naim Naqvi

Did his graduation in Science discipline from AMU in 1972-73. He was Secretary of University Ali Society in 1970 and M.M. Hall Literary Society in early 70 's and member of Tayyabji Literary Society. Did his Diploma in Bakery Administration from HTT College Oxford Street London in 1987. Worked with National Herald - Delhi, Blitz - Bombay as Trainee Journalist and in Production Department with 'Naya Sansar Pictures' of Khwaja Ahmed Abbas at Bombay in early 70's. Traveled for study and training purposes to Germany, U.K., Switzerland, France, Dubai, Oman, AbuDhabi, Bahrain and Philepines.

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